Let's say you're out walking and you notice the beauty of the sky. Right on the spot you could rejoice in that very thing. You could rejoice in your good fortune to be in such a beautiful place. Or you might notice, "Well, what do you know? I just did something kind." And you rejoice in that. Maybe you spontaneously said something encouraging, or helped someone with their heavy bags. That instinct to reach out was right there within you. Whatever form it takes, you can rejoice in that virtue, in that tenderness within you.
When others are happy and doing well you can rejoice in their good fortune as well. There are continual opportunities to rejoice in your own good fortune and the good fortune of others. Someone may simply get a letter or a compliment that makes them happy. Or, a person who's been very depressed may have some personal insight that lifts their spirits. Right on the spot we can rejoice in their good fortune.
Generally this is not so easy to do. It's not the natural inclination or habit of mind. Instead, what we notice is our feeling of not-so-glad-about-our-good-fortune—or anyone else's. When you're having a really bad day, seeing someone else having a good day usually does not give you joy. Very likely you thoroughly resent it. Or when someone else gets the job promotion you wanted, your first instinct may not be to rejoice in their good fortune.
If you make it your practice to rejoice for even one week, it will probably show you some envy and resentment you didn't even know you had. Who would have thought that the practice of rejoicing would be a setup for seeing our neurosis? The usual response to this is to feel we've blown it. For the aspiring bodhisattva, this is not the case. When your intention is to wake up so that you can help others to do the same, then you can rejoice in your capacity to see where you're stuck as much as you rejoice in your capacity for loving kindness.
There is no other way for true compassion to emerge. No other way to water the seed of bodhichitta. This is how you know what other people are up against. Just like you, they aspire to open, only to see themselves close. Just like you, they have the capacity to feel joy and, out of ignorance, they block that joy. The difference is that we can get smart and begin to see when we get hooked and do something different. Instead of going on automatic pilot, and following the same old momentum, we could let the storyline go and stay present with an open heart. And we could rejoice that we are even slightly interested in choosing such a fresh alternative.
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